Parenting: Getting Comfortable With Discomfort

When do you stand up for your child, and when do you let her figure it out on her own?
Remember that moment just before your baby was born when the doctor said, “You may feel some pressure”? You may have thought the doctor was referring to just the next few minutes; but it is possible that there was no time limit on that pressure. We feel pressure to provide the best nutrition, shelter and education. We sacrifice, smile and cajole our way through parenthood. We grow accustomed to exhaustion and compromise and learn to be accepting of the human condition on a much deeper level. We even become less judgmental and more grateful. In the midst of this, a living, breathing child trusts, loves and utterly depends on us; but hey, no pressure.
I can’t tell you how many times I have heard frustrated parents lament a situation at school, or a play date or even a family gathering that made the parent feel uncomfortable or even feel sorry for their child. Life is unfair and what should we do when our child gets the short end of the stick?
For me, it really depends on both the setting and the frequency. I’m all for letting a child learn to stand up for him or herself, if there is a basic level of fairness. I’m also all for getting involved when a child is in over their head. Only a parent can determine when to get involved, but I firmly believe that children need their parents to be ready, willing and able to advocate for them. Learning to advocate for our children in a way that builds bridges rather than burning them is a crucial parenting skill.
At school or at the pediatrician or even at a play date, there are moments when we need to advocate for, defend and speak up for our children. Some of the greatest growth spurts in childhood are not made by the children at all, but by brave parents who loathe confrontation, but do it anyway because they must.
Whether we simply remove our child from an unfair play date, or insist that we see a specialist at the emergency room, we are our child’s best and often only advocates.
It is our right and privilege to stand up for our children and it is how we show them that we believe, trust and love them even up to and beyond our own comfort level. We all tell our kids we love them, but those moments of advocacy are the times we show them. In those moments they discover our character and our priorities and it is what builds the foundation of strong and healthy relationships as they grow up.
For a teenager to know their parent has their back when they genuinely need the back up, is huge and often the difference between the courage to talk to a parent and the choice to pull away. Knowing that your mom or dad believes you are someone worth standing up for is the highest approval a teen can get in a world that often disrespects their whole generation just as a matter of principle.
So, here we are, under pressure and getting comfortable with the discomfort, standing together and standing up for what we believe in and the ones we love. I think that may be the greatest legacy we leave our children.
In the meantime, remember to keep your face to the sun so all the shadows will fall behind.